Betting the Right Amount

The size of your bets in no-limit poker is a critical aspect of your strategy. When to bet and how much to bet depends on your goal in the hand. Consider the situation including your hand, the board, your opponent’s hand, how the hand has been played so far, your opponent’s playing style, the size of the pot, and then bet with a specific purpose in mind.

Whether you have a great hand, you are bluffing, or you are trying to get information about your opponent’s hand, your bet should have a purpose.

Betting the Right Amount 1

NOTE: This section is intended to help you in cash games. Tournament betting strategy is drastically different because the stack sizes are often smaller than cash game stack sizes. The ultimate goal of tournaments is to survive, but the goal in cash games is to make money over the long run.

Preflop Betting

The goal of playing no-limit cash games is to win the big pots. You should always be looking for an opportunity to win a big pot instead of putting chips at risk trying to win small pots like stealing the blinds. In cash games with deep stacks (a lot of chips relative to the size of the blinds), stealing the blinds will only account for a small profit if you are successful. More importantly, stealing too much can get you into trouble if you get caught a few times. Tournament players become accustomed to stealing blinds in order to “chip up” (slowly accumulate chips) and stay ahead of the increasing blinds. In cash games, the blinds will never be raised and the amount of chips you have relative to the size of the blinds allows you to play a more conservative game preflop and wait for opportunities to win big pots.


When you raise in no-limit games, keep the bet sizes consistent so you don’t give away the strength of your hand by how much you bet. The size of your bets should be based on the number of hands you are going to play and your skill level compared to the other players at the table. Determine a range of hands that you will be comfortable playing preflop. If you think you are a superior player and play well with a loose table image, you can play a lot of hands and be profitable. Otherwise, a tight-aggressive style of play will be to your advantage, which means playing fewer hands.

If your starting hand range is large, set your standard preflop raise to about 2.5 times the big blind. If the range of hands you’re going to play is small, set your standard preflop raise to about 4.5 times the big blind. The more hands you play, the smaller amount you should raise so you're not losing much when you're up against a bigger hand, which will be more often. Making smaller raises will also get you more action from mediocre hands as well and if you are a superior player, you should win more over the long run.

If you're new to no-limit games or prefer a tighter table image, consider using the bigger standard raising amount and play fewer hands preflop than in limit. Start with strong hands and force your opponents to pay a steep price to outdraw.

The reason that you should make the same size raise with every hand that you're willing to play is to avoid giving away the strength of your hand. There are a couple adjustments you can make to get the most value from your hands:

-Adding any limper money already in the pot to the size of your raise will give your opponents worse pot odds to make a call. If your standard raise is three times the big blind, and there are 2 limpers, make your bet five times the big blind.

-The worse your position will be after the flop, the more you may want to add to your bet. When you are in early position, you may want to add a big blind or two to your standard bet in order to get fewer callers with better position. Position is crucial in a hand so you don’t want allow players in the hand cheaply with a positional advantage on you.

The key is that you should only change the amount of your raise based on hand conditions such as position, the number of players that have already called and the types of opponents at the table. Do not change the amount you raise based on the quality of your cards.


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